tv [untitled] February 3, 2012 7:48am-8:18am PST
the book is written as a drama between a brother and sister. it is a double family story of how skewed and blind our perceptions. it is written in dramatic themes. it takes place from the tormented younger sister's view. one of the most challenging aspects and excruciating painful for me writing apples and oranges and say what is my responsibility here? how can i put this on the page? how i drove my brother crazy. >> one of the things i want to ask you about, your books, you are known as an investigative
reporter, long complex narratives involving dramas and situations. i am curious to know what was hardest about memoir with somebody living their life as a working journalist? let me preface it a little bit with someone who has similar tendency. this is from 2005. i would like it if you would read from here. >> perfect. yeah. this is a moment in the book where, i am kind of flipping out writing about my brother. i am listening to tapes, because of course i have gone back to the orchards, my brother has died at a young age. i have gone back to the
orchards to do interviews, i keep doing this dancing about what it is really about. i am saying i am outside the event although in the middle of it. it is protection, part of the latex that is covers me. making tapes, to crack the grid that i can understand on situations that are incomprehensible. at this moment i want to change everything in me tobserver part and move into something else, the living your life part. when does that start, exactly? something else, i look into the mirror and someone says what are you doing here? you have no right to live. >> why did you become a reporter in the first place? >> it was stamped in my dna.
i was so lucky, cynthia. earlier we were talking about our shared mexican history. in my house, first of all i came from a house in san antonio, south texas of big opinions. my father was a kind of district attorney without portfolio. other jewish fathers play golf. >> this is a jewish district attorney. >> originally from mexico. his whole passion in life is corruption. the family own add discount store. that wasn't where his heart would you say. he was running this family business and his heart was exposing theing bad guy. for a reporter it became the most fantastic training ground. at dinner my father would talk non stop, the mayor is a crook,
the senator is a crook, i am going to get that guy. he would have campaigns, whistle blowers, he had stocking bag stuffers. there was an extrodinary house, lucky house, very grateful for all of that who is hilariously funny. he is holder sister, anita brenner was older, worked in the "new york times" in the 1930s. there are many pictures of anita in those family scrapbooks.
unfortunately my father hated his older sister, rather than getting to have wonderful times of gertrudestein in mexico, all i heard was she is a monster. they didn't speak. the idea of her, the largeness of her loomed large in the house. >> so you start out, you become a writer for all of these reasons and you are someone who compulsively takes notes and packages what you see in story form, as you decide you are going to climb into your own life and own family story, how did you figure out what was true? >> that was a tough one. first of all, being a reporter, so often it is about a way with of finding our own stories and the stories we write about.
one of the aspects so interesting for so many of us, if you are an introverted extrovert or shy person or rather hidden asking questions is a great way to hide. if you are writing a memoir, it makes you scour because you care about being accurate. this was complicated because i worried about this for a long time, who was right? who was wrong? i had my hyperrational reporter's hat on. then i began to realize, it doesn't matter. part of the great challenge of writing in a personal way is saying this is my story. it is just what is right for me. that was interesting. i was very lucky in that, the brenners are a family of letter writers. everyone had a typewriter in the era before computers and
bang away at typewriters in the middle of the night as children and my father and mother, long, long letters. anita brenner turned out to be the same kind of obsessive letter-writer pack right. all of her letters were in the university of texas, the great archives of the world. i was able to go on a traumatic day and see she had neatly kept hundreds of letters that my father and family wrote to each other in the 20s. i saw patterns, the anger that had gone on 60 years before i was on the planet that became stamped on us.
it became our dna. >> anything that helped you get insight as to why so much of your brother's anger and passion into what you regarded as coo coo politics? >> that is an interesting question. it is hard. what i have learned is, i have written biographies, bingham family of louisville. we take a letter of a piece of evidence, there is a ah-huh, this anger daughter wrote a letter to her father. my grandfather working away in
san antonio then adored this daughter, book dedicated to him. she was then gone up to new york and going to school at columbia. he wrote her a furious letter. >> your grandfather? >> yes. you have broken your promise and haven't been putting yourself full time, although the book would you say in the front of "new york times". he pulled the carpet on her. that kind of thing. you could leap on that and say, well that says it all, doesn't it? one of the things i learned about writing about family is there aren't answers to so many questions. it is a mistake in a family to think every question has an answer. one of the questions i had going into the book was, do we
pass sibling relationships down? was the fact that my father had such a difficult relationship with his older sister, was that the thing? going into writing this book i would say there it is, it is passed down. the fact is my brother and i were with able to get passed this. my brother would say you have so many damned theories, just go forward, live your life. don't be with so obsessed with the passed. he turned out to be a guru figure for me. sometimes you don't get to understand everything. >> what turned, finally? i mean he is on some levels, cranky, right up until the last
day, so what changed for you and would this have happened if he didn't have a life threatening illness crisis? >> i have often asked that. i don't know what the answer to that is. what changed that is so profound and fundamental and coming over on the plane, i wrote 5 points that i thought was that worked for me in transforming. many people have said to me, how do we make it better with a sibling? what changed for us was the first thing that happened is, this is now my rule 1, take action. i flew out to the orchards, i panicked after 9/11. i would never get this better. what was i going to do? like everyone in new york and america, we were so traumatized
with 9/11. i said to my husband, i am going to go out to the orchards. >> this is before you knew he was sick? >> i knew. he was still going full speed and no one would have known he was sick. he wasn't really sick, he just had his medical condition. i said i am going to go surprise him. i spent 2 days. >> simply because the world is coming to an end? >> i felt compelled. it was the moment i knew i had to turn the page. you just know. there is something that happens to you, i am going to turn the page. i was panicked. i was surprising him, he would have said no, i am too busy, i don't want you here. i spent a day running all over
new york city trying not to freak out about the sirens buying flannel clothes, the right things for the orchard. this is ridiculous, i wear what i always wear, black. >> you are wearing a black cashmere turtle neck to the orchard? you can't do that. on the airplane, i am trying to learn the apple business. i have my files like a reporter. i realize i am treating my brother as if he was a source. i just wanted him to like me. i wanted to impress him. i had to do that little sister thing. the first rule was, put yourself into their world. the second part of this was
understand how difficult it is and don't wait for a crisis, because the fact is, if you have this strange relationship with a sibling, you are already in kind of a crisis. you may not recognize it and maybe comfortable and okay with it, but it isn't perfect. the best predictor of happiness and long term happiness is to have good relationship s with your family and friends. the 3rd aspect is try to see your sibling as they are not as you would like them to be. going to the apple country was huge for me. again, i am embarrassed to say, 15 years i had never been once with. this is a lunatic thing my brother is doing with these
apples. when i sailed down this huge area of fruit country, imagine after 9/11, apple country at harvest, thousands of acreage, beautiful skies. i got tears. it was like america the beautiful. it was so rural. it was such a different world for me. the first sighting of my brother. he didn't know i was coming was at the packing house. i remember seeing him, millions of apples coming down the flumes. my brother was looking at every single piece of fruit to be sure it was shipped correctly. he was to tender. i was seeing him from a long shot. i thought oh my god, all he needs is a sweater, he'd look just like are mr. rogers. i began to realize i didn't get it. that was the beginning. then i began bombing him with
questions about apples and fruit. there was one moment that did change things in my perception, which is we were walking one day, i worked the fields and packing house routine, 5:00 a.m. routine. we were walking at dawn with the pickers who were all working, my brother was walking ahead of me. i saw all the shades of green, i was able to get my own ego out of the way. i thought he is amazing. this brother of mine is amazing. he has built up something astonishing here. it was almost like he was no longer invisible to me. i could begin to see him. then when i watched him walking ahead of me, i realized he has the same gape i do.
we are probably so much more alike than we ever allowed ourselves to think. that was a beginning moment for me. >> one of the narratives that runs through this book, particularly as he becomes more sick in the last part of it, you are the relentless, you are going to be okay, there is going to be hope, if i make enough contacts, i'll fix this. he is the almost unfailing despite his occasional request to you to help voice of it is not going to get better, deal with it, what did you learn over the course of that thing about the terrible tension between hope and reality acceptance when you are close to someone who has a terminal
illness? >> that is such a hard question because the fact is they are so you. you are looking at yourself. it is impossible when your brother, sister, and 2 and a half years apart. i couldn't give what he was going through a reality. i couldn't see it for what with it was. it was catastrophic. now that i had my brother, i was desperate not to lose him. >> you hadn't had him until this. >> we had that cotten batting between us. we had a fierce attachment, when you are that locked together in this kind of angry, very strong bond, underneath that is the bond and the real
attachment. so detachment and saying this is about him was impossible. part of that relentless cheer leading was my own failure was to say this is real and this is happening. we always think we can find a solution to everything and we can't. >> did he teach you that? >> yes. that we sometimes things we can't understand. >> knowing what you know now about how it was all going to play out, would you have done anything differently in the way of ongoing, this will be okay, we'll make this okay, we'll try everything kind of cheer leading? >> i don't think, i would have liked to say i would have been
>> no one with loves us better. william james often wrote about the core of self. that core of self is hidden from our parents. we hide from our parents but we don't from our siblings, they know every aspect of us. it is why they can drive us crazy, it is why when we have a problem, our impulse is to want our brother or sister right next to us. no one with could be closer. there is that pull. that pull is so powerful. it was a love story, always. >> do you think you knew that before you started writing this? >> i knew i had to be as close to my brother as i could
possibly be. i am sure that pull is part of it. >> you have a daughter and stepson as well? >> i have 1 daughter and 1 stepson who i am close to. >> has this changed how you are around them as well? >> absolutely. my daughter casey has a half brother she is very close to. i say to all of them, you are a team. you have each other through life. you are a team. you do a lot of things together as the 2 families, very, very close. >> this seems like a good moment to open up any question that is you all may want to ask about the writing process, about siblings, anything else. > is there something you
could read to us from the book that you would feel that we wouldn't understand unless you read it? >> you have any ideas? >> it is a real sort of testish. she has put it together like a quilt. i would say the scene that you described where you are arriving and first see him in the apple orchard, do you remember exactly where that is? >> i'll page through it and see where it is. i might do a short theme where i describe what he looks like and this perfect them. >> if you want to revert to your texas voice. >> the last time i saw my brother, we had an immense
fight. it was in his house in san antonio, i am describing, the book opens with this fight. this is sort of a picture of my brother at this exact moment. there are always apples around him, women, too. apple pie, big sheik antique bowls of wooden apples, read and golden, apples pencils, produce framed on the library wall, texas vegetables from the rio grand empire. i am an american first, then a texan he would say not understanding he sounded like auggi march. the clues are there, i later
realized. a man's fate is his character. you always have to show off and tell us what you know, carl said. i'll be in washington next week i say. i have an interview, i have to close of peace. you promised me, you said you would stay away from washington state. you sat right here and said you would not go to the cascades. he yells as loudly as i have ever heard him. washington, d.c. i shout back. i have the trait as well. [laughter]. >> as you are thinking about that, i would like to ask you to give us one more. there are 2 completely surprising and interesting substories woven through this narrative of your brother, 1,
your fabulous aunt character in mexico getting frosty into mexico and running around with frita caller and your discovery of apples? >> this is astonishing, are we talking about the family past apple? >> both and the way thing danagers come together, yeah. >> kind of astonishing, again working on the idea that everything is passed down in families is it or is it not or is it coincidence. my father had a difficult relationship with his father from mexico. we knew our family had this chain of nurseries from mexico. i never understood because my
father would change tg subject when his name came up. our grandfather was an orchardist at the turn of the century. >> which you hadn't even known. >> i didn't know it until i discovered this at the archive when i was trying to page through all of these things. then i discovered an obituary that had been written about our grandfather when he died when we were much to young to remember him. it was very, very long in the texas at the time. it detailed every, all the rare plants, specimen plants, horticultural, introducing them to texas. i was so excited about all of this. i used to say to my brother,
this apple thing, you have gotten from your grandfather who had a reverence. he would say that is ridiculous. when my brother announced he was going to give up his life as a trial lawyer to be an apple orchardist. my father said i have one thing to say, jews don't farm. but they did. his father clearly did. >> just to wind up, then, what are you working on next? >> i have become fascinated with the personal. this is the most excruciating difficult book. >> so you are going to turn around and do it again. >> i have been spending a great